Moniz: The National Security Imperative for U.S. Civilian Nuclear Energy Policy

Question: What do mitigating the global security challenges posed by climate change, the Nation’s nuclear navy, our role in worldwide nuclear non-proliferation, U.S. competitiveness in a global marketplace, and the security and reliability of the U.S. nuclear stockpile have in common?

Answer: A robust domestic nuclear energy industry and supply chain.

This was the subject of my speech to the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in October, 2016, where I described the problem of the nuclear industry at a crossroads and laid out eight issue areas to be addressed. The eight issues spanned the entire nuclear energy landscape including the continued operation of existing nuclear fleet, several pathways for new nuclear reactor development and deployment, and the nuclear fuel cycle including waste management and non-proliferation. My thesis was that these issues were inexorably linked, and progress in all of these dimensions required near term actions.

Since that time, the U.S. nuclear power industry has receded into an even more precarious state. Since that speech, 3 more existing nuclear power plant units have been identified for closure before the end of their current operating licenses; the construction of 4 new light water reactor nuclear plants in the Southeast U.S. have been challenged by the ongoing saga of the Westinghouse bankruptcy; and the Trump budget proposals for Fiscal Year 2018 severely cut back R&D and pre-deployment activities for advancing light water reactor technology as well as developing the next generation of advanced nuclear reactor technologies. 

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